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UNS info

05. 01. 2018.

Author: Jelena L. Petković ???source???: UNS

Since the release of the UNS findings, there has been an increase in the number of open investigations on the murders of journalists in Kosovo

During and after the war in Kosovo, 14 journalists and media workers were murdered and kidnapped while they were performing work tasks, and only because they were journalists. The perpetrators and kidnappers are still at large to date.

By intensively investigating this topic, the Journalists' Association of Serbia Dossier found new data, and noticed the ways in which the investigations were disturbed, highlighting omissions and posed a number of questions to the authorities. For the past month and a half, since we announced new findings, the official number of open investigations on the murders and kidnappings of journalists in Pristina has increased from two to seven.

The UNS found that Krist Gegaj, a commentator and editor in Albanian-language program for RTV Pristina, was killed in September 1999, after NATO forces arrived to Kosovo.

Dossier found that EULEX learned that Ranko Perenic and Đuro Slavuj, a Radio Pristina team, had been kidnapped by KLA members (on August 21, 1998) and soon after closed the case. Snezana Perenic was only recently informed that her husband "was intercepted on the road by an armed group of people carrying the KLA's mark, threatened with weapons and taken in an unknown direction." The notification was received after the UNS intensified the research.

In a conversation with at least 200 responders: relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, members of international missions, we came to information about murders and kidnappings of colleagues which were not known to the public.

Investigation reopened

Former Head of the U.S. Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM), Shaun Byrnes, said that in the region where Perenic and Slavuj were kidnapped, Fatmir Limaj had the most influence, but that part overlaped with the influence of the KLA from the Pastrik zone, which was concentrated in Prizren, and that the units under the control of Ramush Haradinaj also came to that location.

Milivoje Miki Mihajlovic, the former editor of Radio Pristina and head of the Media Center in Pristina, also revealed that after the kidnapping, a reporter for the New York Times, Mike O'Connor, saw a vehicle, Blue Zastava 128, spotted in Bela Crkva, where Perenic and Slavuj went to work as well as the "Sony" voice recorder that they brought. Neither the vehicle nor a recorder were found to date.

EULEX closed the investigation four years ago, but after published articles and the UNS's insisting that nothing was done to find out the truth, on November 3, 2017, the abduction of Perenić and Slavuj was taken over by the Special Prosecutor's Office of Kosovo. The investigation was reopened.

Lost documents?

The UNS came to information that the murder of "Media Action International" journalist and interpreter Aleksandar Simovic Sima, also committed after the arrival of the international community, was the only out of 14 cases that EULEX investigated as a war crime.

We have not received any response from the competent authorities if this crime will be taken before the Special War Crimes Court in Kosovo. According to the latest information, this murder is "in the process of handover" to Kosovo institutions. This investigation is expected to be reopened.

After we presented our findings to the head of EULEX Alexandra Papadopoulous, although the mission, since its establishment, claims there is no information about abductions of Pristina's "Jedinstvo" and "Politika" correspondent Ljubomir Knezevic (kidnapped on May 6, 1999) and the employees of RTV Pristina, Milo Buljevic (June 25, 1999), they, nevertheless, found them.

We explained that we know that they have certain documents and where these were. After searching the archives, in October, EULEX informed the UNS that they nevertheless have information about kidnappings of Knezevic and Buljevic. After this and after nine years were lost, investigations are now being handed over to Kosovo Special Prosecutor's Office. Prosecutor Drita Hajdari is in charge of the investigation of Knezevic's kidnapping, and prosecutor Elez Blakaj is investigating the kidnapping of Buljevic.

Obstruction of justice

The UNS has also found data pointing out to a criminal offence of obstruction of justice. The police under the control of UNMIK did not comply with prosecutors' demands in the investigations of well-known Albanian journalists, close to Ibrahim Rugova, a political opponent to Hashim Thaci and Azem Sula.

When the journalist of "Rilindja," Shefki Popova, was killed in September 2000, the investigation was conducted before the Basic Court in Mitrovica. The UNS learned that the competent prosecutor Njazi Rexha twice asked the police for emergency assistance and help (on October 2000 and March 2004). The police disregarded these requests, and after that, in the process of transferring jurisdiction from UNMIK to EULEX, this case - "disappeared."

In the same manner and at the time of UNMIK's authority, Kosovo Police conducted an investigation into the murder of Bardhyl Ajeti (June 3, 2005), a journalist and columnist of "Bota Sot." Data from the UNS research shows that the prosecutor in charge Afrim Shefiku twice submitted a request to the police for the collection of additional information. There was no answers.

UNMIK did nothing to conduct an effective investigation on kidnapping of Radio Television of Kosovo journalist - Marjan Melonasi, abducted in September 2000. Only five years later the police opened an investigation. From March 12, 2015, the Basic Prosecutor's Office in Pristina is in charge of investigating of this abduction, but without results.

Increased number of investigations

The documents from the investigation were not automatically handed over between UNMIK, EULEX, Kosovo judiciary, and Kosovo Special Prosecutor's Office.

We asked our interlocutors the question - do you think it is coincidental that so many investigations about the murders and kidnappings of known journalists were "lost" in the handover process?

Obviously, some of them correctly understood the question. Since the UNS began to publish new findings, the number of open investigations about the murders and kidnappings of journalists (from September to December 2017) increased from two to seven.

Three more investigations are in the "handover process" from EULEX to Kosovo Prosecutor's Office, and one is closed.

Aleksandar Lumezi, Kosovo's main prosecutor, told the UNS that all investigations would be considered open until evidence of perpetrators of crimes are found.

In interviews with representatives of KFOR, UNMIK and EULEX, we found out that none of these missions had information about the murders of Afrim Maliqi, the journalist of the newspaper "Bujku" (murdered in December 1998), Momir Stokuca, a photo journalist of "Politika," who was killed in his home in Pristina on September 21, 1999), and the murder of the editor of RTV Pristina, Krist Gegaj.

Empty folders

U.S. Army Major Mark Nee, a legal adviser to KFOR Commander, officially responded to the UNS "that KFOR was not (and was not) an investigative authority, but it may have received information or received requests or complaints from victims' families, but such information would be forwarded to the authorities,"  i.e., to EULEX.

But, investigating the murder of Gegaj, the UNS found out that his disappearance was immediately reported to the nearest KFOR checkpoint, so the next day the soldiers started searching for and then found Gegaj's body. If KFOR says it gave all the information to EULEX, and EULEX does not have them, where did those reports get lost?

In contacts with UNMIK, we found that the reduction of employees in this mission led to them not knowing where to find the documents from the investigation. It was officially explained to us that "for some reason, those who were responsible at the time did not do a good job" and that they do not know why is this a case.

- As a journalist of Pristina's "Jedinstvo" I knew almost all of our colleagues who were murdered or kidnapped. They were not unknown either to KFOR, or to UNMIK because they were carrying their identity cards. Of course, their kidnappings were reported, and after the murders, the insights were made and records were made. At that time in KiM there were more than 45,000 members of KFOR and UNMIK.

Instead of releasing kidnapped journalists and finding and prosecuting the killers of those who were killed doing their responsible jobs as journalists and reporters, they "lost" the documentation and hid the crimes. If they wanted, with such numerous personnel and professional power, they could have solve, if not all, but a large majority of crimes. It is obvious that there was no good will to have a responsible, professional and impartial treatment of the victim and the perpetrator, regardless of nationality and religion, and nothing significantly changed over time. Only years have passed, and now a number of "justifications" can be found, says for the UNS Dossier Gordana Djikanovic, a journalist and member of the Association of the Families of the Kosovo Victims.

The UNS will continue to make the public aware, and continue its research on murdered and kidnapped journalists in Kosovo, as well as journalists of Serbian media who were killed in the civil war on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

The DNA samples

In the interviews, the international representatives cited, as one of the main reason why the fate of our kidnapped colleagues is not known, is that not all family members of those who were kidnapped gave their DNA samples. Researching this, the UNS refuted it. We found that the data base of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which keeps DNA material from family members of the missing, the samples of the relatives of Djuro Slavuj are registered under the wrong surname.

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